I imagine you’ve heard it said that it’s actually quite impossible not to move. Even as we sleep in our beds, we are (along with the rest of planet Earth) hurtling around the Sun at a speed of approximately 67,000 miles per hour. Of course, we’re also spinning on Earth’s axis, and the whole solar system is also on the move. So much for staying put.
It seems that we face a similar situation in our spiritual lives. It’s extremely rare, if possible at all, for us not either to grow or to shrink spiritually. It would be unusual, at the end of a year, to look back at the previous twelve months and conclude that we’d learned nothing, lost nothing, and felt no closer to or further from God. Even when spiritual movement in our lives is slow, it tends to have a trajectory.
This movement doesn’t happen just from year to year. Increasingly, I am convinced that the decisions we make find us moving toward God or away from God on a weekly and even daily basis. It can be so tempting to partition our lives into “spiritual” and “non-spiritual” segments. We think of Sunday mornings and our mid-week Bible studies, small groups, youth group and Bible readings as our intentionally spiritually-focused times, and then we lump the rest of the week into “normal life.”
In a recent adult Sunday School class, we examined the Apostle Paul’s admonition to the Christians in Rome:
“I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1)
In our class, we had an engaging conversation around the idea of a “living sacrifice,” which would have been an oxymoron at that time, when sacrifices of animals or plants always involved the death of the sacrifice. We concluded that this offering of our bodies was not a “once and done” situation, but a daily commitment to honor God – to move toward God – with all that we have and in all that we do.
It can be all too easy to convince ourselves that it’s fine to take some time “just for ourselves,” and not necessarily consider God and how our actions might impact (or poorly reflect on) our relationship with him. If we truly believe that every hour of every day, every talent and ability we have, every relationship we have, and every dollar at our disposal is a gift from God, a blessing from God, then I think it’s appropriate to consider at the end of each day how we might have used those blessings either to serve God faithfully and to walk along the path God intends for us, or to veer off that path and go our own way.
Of course, most weeks and days (and perhaps even hours) are a mixed bag, aren’t they? We see ourselves doing all we can to follow after God’s heart some days, only to head off in selfish directions on others. Yet, despite the ups and downs, we can generally sense whether we’re walking into God’s plans more closely, or heading instead our own way.
We’re never truly far from God, of course, as Psalm 139 reminds us. We can’t outrun him and we can’t flee from his presence. Psalm 139:5 says, “You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.” As we read that promise, it’s telling to discover whether we feel comforted and encouraged by those words, or threatened and stifled.
May God grant us each grace and a willing heart, that we might daily take a step toward him in joyful obedience, even when the going gets hard.